One of my favorite Recovery phrases is “feelings are not facts.” Dr. Low has an entire chapter on this topic, writing:
“I want you to know that your feelings are not facts. They merely pretend to reveal facts. Your feelings deceive you. They tell you of danger when there is no hazard, of wakefulness when sleep was adequate, of exhaustion when the body is merely weary and the mind discouraged. In speaking of your symptoms, your feelings lie to you. If you trust them, you are certain to be betrayed into panics and vicious cycles.” (1)
This is a powerful message for people struggling with anxiety. When we feel life is out of control, that imminent danger is around the corner, that we are having a heart attack it’s easy—maybe natural?—to believe these feelings. But Dr. Low advises us to spot these unrealistic notions, replace them with secure thoughts, and take the total view of the situation.
I find this Recovery tool so helpful because it’s short, easy to remember, and applies to most anxiety-provoking situations, in which there usually is no factual danger. I think it can be especially helpful for people struggling with OCD. While there may be a strong urge to believe something is unsanitary, that a ritual is required to perform a mundane task, and so on, these feelings do not line up with reality.
The next time you spot yourself working yourself up, try reminding yourself that feelings are not facts. Of course, Recovery teaches us that you won’t experience instant relief, but over time the reality of the situation will become clearer than how the “stranger in the brain” perceives it to be.
I endorsed for writing this post.
1. Low AA. Mental Health Through Will-Training. Glencoe, Ill.: Willett Publishing Co.; 1997;118.